To be guardian of you,
as of myself… the greatest harm
is to mention everything, nervously.
We imagine breathing, and also, our undressing.
Sometimes, we might not know
what to send in place of ourselves, even though
people in a row, talking,
overlap with some
beating on our cloth doorplate.
And then, our double-clothing
washes in the waterfall.
—baby’s ears are between my hip-points.
My belly is a blood-vessel filigree. Stretched,
it looks draped
with bougainvillea: the baby is right there.
This living baby
just beneath the memory
of my miscarriage cousins’ graves—
marked with pinwheels so that even wind
endures the belief that we sacrifice nothing. Not fruits
that bleed red, nor sweetwoods burning
at our behest, deep into collective memory
of Crusty and Flour, the red and white cats
of my girlhood. Dressed in doll clothes
and made to dance with me. Almost my height
on their hind legs, Crusty
was like the copper tips of pine. Flour, more sensitive,
breaking a water-jar—bowing
and curtsying the sunlight’s-way of diffusing
our ordinary séance.
The pinwheels’ wind serves
as my reference:
as if to answer this lament for my aunt,
lament for babies— a dangling crystal earring
to sparkle by the pinwheel.
And the adoration song
that will accompany this offering.
When the earth was young and exploding herself, did these
things happen then—the fern coiled
into the ash where she will harden
for our understanding of time.
The cradleboard, worked with blue-glass beads
from Venice— that continent’s cool braille
for the animals of this world who knew us, and let us touch them.
Even the fire chief who rapes
his neighbor’s 4-H ewe each Friday—his hemlock’s arm is simply
lonely and wants to touch us shorn,
sheathed in halves and halves. The silver-stitching of his name
on his brown shirt’s pocket— the border of stars and flowers—
the witness-horse will lip an apple from his palm.
Before we slept we prayed together for ourselves.
The next morning we walked through the standing-up rocks,
spires like stacked brown eggs—
and found the baby owl feather
caught on the tip of an adolescent yucca.
We told each other the usual things about what that catch could mean:
that the sun’s not always warming—that the snow’s
not only a blanket, and that the heart is
or is not accountable for the important
weathers of childhood… the tornado that touched
the frosted swingset of my winter-evening birth.
We know now that the crib
is borne from the bottom
of a pelican’s beak: her feathers like my pale, pale birthday tulips—
and simple, like my mother’s twilight sleep. That pause in her nature
not from the Latin nasci, to be born.
What once grounded
my most sacred belief: remnant of trees
below the glacier-clock. We arrive at love
before we arrive at hate, yet the problem
is one of love
lasting the maul ring and winter.
will not produce love; has
compelled us to care for nothing
hidden away or hemming the water
from the river’s true love— any ocean
giving, then sleeping.
Christ endured one.
Everyone had to go back
to the cat’s cradle of two women
climbing out of the earth fifty-thousand years ago—ecstatic
replaced by we who name the animals—
and from that moment of gracelessness
value our lives. Nothing
gentle or old enough, but isn’t the father
always a wonderful
and thrown-together consent.
is the author of American Spikenard, winner of the 2006 Iowa Poetry Prize, and Dummy Fire, winner of the 2006 Saturnalia Poetry Prize. Her third collection, Faulkner’s Rosary, is forthcoming from Saturnalia Books. She lives on the Olympic Peninsula with her family, and is the poetry editor at 42opus.